Report from Moondog, Laser 28, Class 5
During the week the forecasts were predicting strong winds mainly ENE with slightly reduced wind at St Vaast. OK for white sailing but not ideal for non asymmetric spinnakers. The forecast on the day turned to all North Easterly but 5 to 7, possibly 8 later. We assumed, or was it hoped, that no force 8 would appear during the race so went to the start hoping for a sleigh ride to St Vaast.
Our start was pretty average and coming off the line we were getting dirty wind from yachts ahead. We put in a quick clearing tack, unfortunately putting Nokomis about as well, and then settled down to sheets just eased fetch to the forts. We were holding Alchemist, Raffles slowly edged up to weather from behind and went ahead. Xara went very high towards the middle of the Solent. Black Diamond as usual quickly pulled out a commanding lead, followed by Footprint.
At the Forts is was just a bear away with white sails, we kept higher than the rest of the fleet hoping that the tidal stream in the Nab channel would gain us a bit over the fleet. Once the bearing of Bembridge was on our course for St Vaast we bore away and hoisted the 90% heavy kite expecting the wind to increase during the trip. Footprint had hoisted once past Bembridge and appeared to have considerable trouble with the spinnaker and ended up pointing back towards Bembridge with no headsail and spinnaker round her knees. We had assumed she was retiring but in the event was just sorting out prior to rejoining the headlong rush to St Vaast. Raffles turned around shortly after Bembridge and retired, we assumed the forecast for the race and the return had caused a rethink.
We passed Alchemist at the buoy in close company with Splash, Xara was ahead with Nokomis and Black Diamond yet further ahead all with spinnakers flying. We tracked Xara for a while and until the broaches became thick and fast were very slowly catching. The broaches eventually became too much to handle so we bore away 10 to 20 degrees from our desired course to have a more stable safer ride. There was a lot of speedo watching during the surfs. Exhilarating to watch 9, then 10 through 11 into the twelve knots on a number of occasions. The highest speed we had was during a particularly long surf, possibly proper planing as it went on and on. No weight on the tiller, the normal hum of the rudder that starts around 7 knots had reached fever pitch, the speedo surged through 10, 12, 14 and eventually settled on 15 knots and held for quite a few seconds before slowing back to a sedate 7 to 9 knots. We held the spinnaker on a low course until around 22:30 when apparent wind speed of 20 knots was getting too hard to handle and we needed to get back on course for the finish. Even though we had gone low for a couple of hours we had seen Xara's lights up to weather and had seen them go green so as long as they were still on course we had got ahead.
Bearing away onto a run enabled a safe and secure spinnaker drop followed by hoisting of the #3 headsail. (we had stowed the #1 as soon as we had dropped it on hoisting the spinnaker and replaced it with the #3 on deck ready for this eventuality) Back on course for the finish now the whole ride seemed secure and a little staid only getting boat speeds in the 7 to 9 knot range most of the time and a very occasional 10 knot surf. At times we felt a bit underpowered but agreed that the next biggest sail, the new #1, would probably be too big and we didn't want to thrash it to death.
Barfleur light came up nicely on the starboard bow and it became interesting to keep the speed over the ground high as we crossed the last of the strong ebb near Barfleur. Just coming up a few degrees dropped the SOG dramatically however, with the tide about to turn and help us on the last few miles to the finish we could spend a bit of time a little high.
We heard Xara announce her finish time as 04:47:38 so on a very quick mental calculation worked out we had to finish by 05:06 to beat her. Our ETA was 05:11 and in the end finished at 05:12 just a couple of feet outside the buoy to ensure no problems with the transit. We thought we had missed out but on a proper calculation we had a minute in hand on Xara.(on the mental calc we had used too low a rating!!)
Where were the others? On entering the bay to await the lock opening Xara was anchored, Black Diamond was anchored behind Xara, did this imply finishing order? As it happens it did and we won the race by 45 seconds. The rest of class 5 finished behind us with the 2 lowest ratings boats, Aquila and Get Carter sufficiently far back to not be on the podium. On comparing stories after the race there seemed to be a lot of missed opportunities and some breakages of spinnakers and sheets. On dropping our spinnaker we sailed conservatively and managed to home in on the finish with no great course alterations giving us the race win. Time under spinnaker was definitely exhilarating, very challenging, potentially boat breaking but very fast for 28 foot of cruiser racer. We all agreed that we couldn't have kept the concentration level up for much longer as just a slight distraction or a wave not caught correctly led to a broach. Most of these we recovered in one with only a couple taking multiple bear aways to get back on our feet.
A great sail, wonderful result, the trip back was a breeze, leaving at 10:00 on Sunday, in via the Needles and back on the mooring at Cowes by 23:45 having had the tide with us up the Solent for all but the last half mile.
Many thanks to the race organisers at the start and the reception at St Vaast and of course the drinks party courtesy of RS Divers.
Race report from J-Fever, J120, Class 3
We had seven on board, including Estrella who's first offshore race, and first channel crossing this would be. Then Will from Just So joined us so we looked fully crewed for what promised to be a fast and exciting crossing if the forecasts were to be believed.
A relatively benign start compared with the last two. The wage earning members of the crew arrived just in time, to a waiting cup of tea and passage sandwiches already made. Unfortunately we then had to drop one crew in Cowes after he received a message from home.
This turned out to be a race of frustrations. The Seame declined to work, the computer crashed frequently, the AIS went on and off strike, (skipper admitted later that he had disconnected the aerial so there was some excuse for that), the batteries would not maintain adequate volts . To cap it all the heater filled the cabin with black smoke when we tried to get dry and warm. J-Fever, like the owners, feeling her age?
We started with the no.3 but the wind abated and we changed to the no.2 with some problems because the luff pulled out of the foil several times, at last it was nursed into place and our speed improved. At the forts the consensus was that we could not carry the kite, but Tearaway proved us wrong. Ours was hoisted at Bembridge and a great sail ensued, Ricardo got the speed prize with 14.4knots on the boat speed display. Alas it was short lived. At about 22.00 hours we broached as the tack departed to leeward when the tack line failed. Some time later we achieved white sails again.
Irritatingly the wind dropped, but no tack line meant no spinnaker so we did what we could, speeds sometimes up to a respectable 12+ knots, and other times dropping to 6.5 as the wind fluctuated.
We arrived at St. Vaast in a cold wet dawn, looking at OJE at anchor we decided to stooge around to await the lock. The weather did not improve, but the party was indoors and was as good as ever, even better in my opinion with olives on offer.
Our thanks to both the start and finishing teams, especially Peter, Sandie, John and Jenny woken early and then standing out in the rain to great us.
There was a shiver of anticipation running through the boat as we congregated at Port Hamble on Friday afternoon. The reason was two-fold: at last we had our full complement of sails and there were decent winds forecast from the North East. So far we had only done the Nab Tower with a borrowed main and HW Jib, so the sail plan could at last be set to suit the conditions, that was good news. We hadn’t sailed the boat in race conditions in big wind so the NE wind would teach us some lessons, and so it proved.
Heading over to Cowes we ate Ruth’s superb Chicken Wraps and juiced up on electrolyte and once through the identity gate sailed off to sort out the sails, missing the warning flags in the process. As a result we did a superb run to the start line, exactly two minutes early! So, not knowing the start time accurately we arrived on the line last and headed off for the Forts under #1 and full main. We spent the leg learning about settings for the sails and slowly built up speed and narrowed the wind angle. The free-off to Bembridge Ledge was probably enough to justify the Code 5 but being a conservative crew we stuck to white sails and saved the kite for after the Ledge. Again, being a conservative crew we opted for a code 5 rather than the code 2, knowing the wind was going to build. For those of you that know us, we promise that we won’t be conservative in the future!
Setting the kite changed OJE from a rather sedate gentleman’s cruising yacht into a bit of a beast, and off we charged towards St Vaast, opting to stay left of the Rhumb Line. Shooting through the fleet it soon became apparent that we needed to start working out our strategy for Cap de Barfleur that we were going to reach on the one tide. Thundering along, we tried to broach into the Captain’s stern, just to warn him of what we were capable of. Luckily we recovered without damaging Tearaway Too, then shot off at speed. Cutting through the fleet was an operation in itself: we had always, we thought, gone quickly in Just Enough, but OJE is a whole new ball game and we found ourselves looking further and further ahead in order to plan our route to avoid our competitors. Soon after, Tim reached the maximum speed of the night: 19.9 knots. That’s in an 11m yacht!
The close moon was definitely affecting the tide and coming down towards Cap de Barfleur at 15 knots we were still making 25 deg of leeway, punching into was between 5 and 6 knots of tide. It meant that we were struggling to keep up to the left and as a result Murderer Fernando decided that a few big, very big, broaches were the order of the day – it certainly kept the crew on their feet and Ruth, playing kicker all the race, very wet.
We dropped the kite a mile from the finish and reached in under white sails and then spent probably 45 minutes taking down the main and tidying it up [not easy with a new main, wet, cold, windy and in the dark], dropped anchor and started celebrating an exciting run.
Thanks to the Race Officers, especially John Dudley who I awakened to tell him that we were 7 miles off; he replied, will you call me back when you are 5 miles off; I replied, not at 15 knots, no. Message received, loud and clear! It was a great time although we were sorry that Ruben and Co weren’t there to join us all, but M Gosselin did us proud as did Helen and team at the Marina bar.
With all of the safety gear and food loaded onboard we set off from Gosport towards Cowes. We were running very late for the start so there was no option to turn around when the Skipper realised he’d forgotten to put the plates, mugs, cutlery, washing up liquid, pan cleaners and kettle onboard!!!
Dinner was a big pressure cooker full of chilli so the crew had to huddle around it and in the absence of cutlery scoop up mouthfuls of it using chunks of bread.
A thick crust of chilli burned onto the bottom of the pan, and the absence of pan cleaners meant that re-using the pressure cooker to boil water for tea/coffee wasn’t an option. Not that we had any mugs to drink it out of anyway! Not good news for a wet, cold and windy crossing L
Line shy after our awful non-start in the Nab Tower race, so we were second to last over the start line. But fantastic to see that Overlord could be competitive sailing upwind in 12 -14 knots and she was third yacht around No Man’s Land, right on the heels of the first two.
We set Overlord’s big spinnaker at No Man’s for the reach down to Bembridge Ledge. As expected, from there on we watched the modern yachts with their asymmetrics pull steadily away from us – looked to be great conditions for them at that stage. By 22.00 life was getting just a bit too exciting with the spinnaker, so we changed down to the genoa for a while, then to Overlord’s asymmetric cruising chute which was worth an extra knot. From there on it was an exhilarating sail in 20-25 knots of wind - quite close to the edge in the gusts and we saw 10.3 knots on the log, which is as fast as it ever gets on Overlord. Overlord loved it, but 60 square metres of mainsail and 18 tonnes of boat on a tiller means she’s pretty tough on the helmsman downwind in that much wind, and gusts and quartering seas don’t help a lot. Beats the gym any day ! Nav. was spot on (great job, Rachel!) and we were never far off the planned track – a few wobbles for ships and wind changes excepted.
Heart stopping finish when we realised the boat in front was coming back across the line and us on starboard. Plenty of room if she was a modern yacht, but Overlord just doesn’t manoeuvre that quickly. We know we can’t expect other boats to understand quite what a problem that is, so we try to keep a decent distance to give ourselves room. But we weren’t expecting the other guys to gybe across and by the time we realised where they were heading we were running out of options. Just hope it didn’t look as scary to them !
Big difference in this race for us was that we didn’t get anything significant wrong for a change. Lots of room to improve though – we’ll keep working at it, doubtless from our customary position in the fleet.
Having taken the mainsail for a re-cut, Don and I made a detour to Hamble to collect the sail. The traffic as usual was bad going into Hamble and delayed us a little bit in getting to Gins farm and our mooring. However, once we got there “all hands to the pump” got Red Zeppelin ready to depart for our 1900 hrs start.
A theme of Levi Roots had definitely arrived on the boat and the Zeppranauts enjoyed music in their food to the tune of Chocolate Rum Brownies and Levi Roots curry, with the promise of a tot of Capt. Morgan for the finish.
Evening meal inside every one, we left our mooring for the 25min trip to the start line. The forecast was a pretty consistent NE breeze of about 15 – 20 kts and gales later! “Now then, as it happens” (Quote the late Sir James Savill) the forecast was quite right giving us the opportunity of a very fast ride to St Vaast.
We enjoyed a good start and at last found that we were able to point and keep up with the faster boats. As such, we nearly did not spot the big old cruise liner sneaking down the Solent scattering the fleet to Port and Starboard as it G & T’d its way to the Forts. Red Zeppelin and OJE broke to Port and for a short while headed towards Portmouth. Once the cream cake had gone by, we all settled back on to our courses for the Forts. At the Forts, we could see the odd J trying to fly their Asymmetric kite as it did not appear to pay off the following boats continued the fast fetch to Bembridge under whites. As soon as we got to Bembridge, every one without exception hoisted kites like it was fashion week at North Sails. For a short period, we enjoyed some fast sailing under the asym whilst trying to ride the odd 25kt gust. However, this was not to last for ever. After one particularly large gust, the guy parted company with a bang, leaving us little option other than to go back to whites.
We recovered the asym and after repacking and repairing the guy, we decided to leave the kite down for a while until the wind dropped. Unfortunately, the wind did not drop a huge amount and although we realised we should have manned up and got the Asym flying again, it seemed safer to continue at a steady 10kts plus under whites.
As Friday night passed by, we enjoyed some fast surfing and before we knew it, Barfleur Lighthouse was just to the East of us. Arriving at the finish, we quickly dropped our sails and motored for some shelter behind Ile de Tatihou. It was here that we found Andy and his crew at anchor in his new J111 rocket ship. They had arrived an at 0330 ish an hour and a half ahead of the rest of us, despite the rain and the wind the grins from Andy and his crew were big enough to create an aura of sun around OJE.
Our 4th place was satisfying and now gives us something to work on. (Some basic rig settings for the mast may have saved us 1 & ½ seasons of heartache and in discussion with Andy baseline race set-up is something that J-Uk appears to do well). After an hour, the lock gate at St Vaast opened and some very tired boats were able to pop in for a well-earned rest and shelter from the gale that was now blowing.
The 1700hr Party was held inside La Marina our adopted restaurant/yacht club for the first time in many years, however, despite the crowding, people were in good spirits and we listened in awe to the stories from the class 5 boats that were in St Vaast en-mass despite the sporty weather.
M. Gosselin, that famous French establishment had provided prizes up to and including 4th place so we received our first JOG prize for Red Zeppelin this year, picture of which is on the Red Zeppelin Face Book page. (Thanks M Gosselin).
Sunday Morning looked a bit Grim but the forecast was for a dying wind. We had a leisurely breakfast followed by a 1015 departure. This allowed us to sail in dry weather all the way home in no more than 15kts of breeze that freed off all the way home. We had a hitchhiker, “Sammy the Seagull” who rode the up wash from our main sail most of the way back to the UK. On entry to the Solent we received a visit from the Border control rib who came along side had a chat and went on their way. (It was the same chap who boarded us on Oz some years ago)
Once back on our mooring we had some pasta and then remembered the Rum, less said the better. At 0300, we all had a snooze until 1000, so much for Monday. After a clear up and some breakfast in Gins Farm, that we all “liked” we departed for home all agreeing that is had been a grand weekend.
Thank you to our race officers for starting, finishing, sorting out results and all the good things that allow us to enjoy our racing.
Peter - Sorry this report is a bit late (OK, thirty years too late, comments in brackets are non-contemporaneous)
Today was my first JOG race. Last year, while cruising with my friend John (later to become JOG captain), we met the crew of Ravels, a Bolero that regularly raced with JOG, and they suggested that the way to get into offshore racing was to get our names on the JOG crew list, so I wrote to Brian Goulder, the club secretary, and waited.
A few weeks ago, I got a call from Richard and Val Griffith, who were looking for crew for their new Impala, Curved Air and I met them down at Gosport where the boat was moored. Impalas are definitely the boat to have this year, with 9 entered for this race and 25 due for the nationals later this season. Our friends on Ravels had upgraded their Bolero to an Impala during the winter, which they had cleverly called Unravelled, and they were the boat to beat. It was a very short motor from the moorings to the JOG start line of Southsea (I think this was the last season that JOG used that line to start races) and we started at 2000 under kites with a lively westerly wind pushing us along nicely.
The kite wouldn’t last for long, as after a couple of broaches we decided our inexperienced crew (I was only 21, and was one of the more experienced sailors ) would be better off under genoa, but we still managed some pretty good speeds during the night. Val was our navigator and kept careful notes of course steered and distance run, diligently plotting them on the chart, with allowance for tide carefully calculated (Those were the days before GPS & Decca were allowed). Mostly though, we played follow the boats in front, as we were not setting a winning pace and we arrived of Fecamp, just under 12 hours after starting, on a grey morning with the imposing white cliffs looming out of the mist.
After crossing the line, I was sent forward to drop the genoa, and we were soon moored up in the delightful Fecamp harbour, sampling the local bread, cheese and wine and going for a party one one of the other Impalas. We weren’t last, and were quite pleased with our 9th out of 14. One other Impala was behind us and another had retired. The most remarkable story came from Edmund Whelan and Mike Jones’s
Deerhunter, who broke their spinnaker pole, but lashed it up with a couple of dinghy oars and still managed to come 3rd in class 5-6 (there were 3 classes in JOG then, as now, but they were numbered 3-4, 5-6 and 7-8 to align with RORC).
The trip back was very fast and windy, with a gale blowing us and the rest of the fleet home very quickly and we returned to Gosport very wet and dishevelled, only for me to discover on coming out of the shower, that I had forgotten my towel (not a mistake I ever made again. I made a list that night which I still use today)
(I do have a vague memory that one of the Impalas hit the Nab Lightship on the way home, and one of the crew jumped onboard and had to be rescued from it by the lifeboat. There is a hint of a bigger story in Bob Lloyd’s race report in Yachts and Yachting, which may be referring to that incident, which certainly made the national press. We had a couple more rough trips back from Fecamp the following two years, and the decision was subsequently made not to travel quite so far that early in the season. )
(I did most of the rest of the season on Curved Air, not bothering the scorers at all and having two man overboards, one of the skipper in mid channel, and the other of my girlfriend in the Solent, before being offered a place on Olivia Anne IV, which won JOG overall that year, and with whom I sailed for the next 15 years. )